Colombia’s government and indigenous representatives began talks Monday about escalated tensions in the southwest of the country that followed ongoing fighting between left-wing guerrilla group FARC and government forces.
The talks followed a week of upheaval during which two indigenous were killed and native guards removed members of the military from positions considered sacred by the indigenous.
The Cauca indigenous, whose territories have been the scene of heavy combat for years, have demanded both the FARC and the military to leave their lands and “fight their war somewhere else.” In return, authorities have blamed the indigenous of aiding the FARC.
The hostilities escalated last week when indigenous guards removed members of the military from strategic positions and arrested alleged indigenous FARC guerrillas who, after being put on an indigenous trial, were submitted to flogging, after which they were sent to their families.
In Monday’s talks, the government of President Juan Manuel Santos was represented by Interior Minister Federico Renjifo, who had come to the indigenous town of Santander de Quilichao to begin the first of a number of talks aimed at ending hostilities between the locals and the central government.
“Today we began the talks. There was a good atmosphere, an open dialogue, and no problem. The indigenous communities talked about their issues and so did the government,” the Minister told press at the end of the first round of talks.
According to Renjifo, the two parties agreed to continue talking on Friday in Popayan, the capital of the Cauca department.